Helicopter crash kills India’s highest-ranking military officer

India’s Chief Of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and 12 others, including his wife, have been killed in a helicopter crash that has left just one survivor. The incident happened in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and has left India without its highest-ranking military official.

The forest minister of Tamil Nadu, K Ramachandran, said: “Out of 14 people on board, seven bodies have been recovered so far, the situation of two are critical. Rescue operations are underway.”

The general’s wide, Madhulika Rawat, is among the dead. The Indian Air Force tweeted about the helicopter crash, saying: “Around noon today, an IAF Mi 17V5 helicopter with a crew of 4 members carrying the CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor, TN. With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident.”

The Air Force added that there was one person receiving treatment at Military Hospital in Wellington. Local and national news channels have been broadcasting footage of the helicopter crash site clearly showing the burning remains of the craft.

The General was due to give a speech at the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington. The helicopter left the Sulur Army Base at 11.40 am on Wednesday 8 December and was in the air for just 30 minutes before it came down into a gorge near Coonoor.

Preliminary reports say that the weather was bad in the area, and the nature of the crash site is making rescue operations difficult. The Defence Minister is due to parliament later on today to brief the government with more details about the crash.

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Written by

Claire Gordon